Issues of the Heart
Written by: MacArthur Jr., John Posted on: 04/08/2003
The following message was delivered at Grace Community Church in Panorama
City, California, By John MacArthur Jr.. It was transcribed from the tape, GC
80-54, titled "Issues of the Heart" A copy of the tape can be received by
writing, Word of Grace, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412.
I have made every effort to ensure that an accurate transcription of the
original tape was made. Please note that at times sentence structure may
appear to vary from accepted English conventions. This is due primarily to
the techniques involved in preaching and the obvious choices I had to make in
placing the correct punctuation in the article.
It is my intent and prayer that the Holy Spirit will use this transcription of
the sermon, "Issues of the Heart" to strengthen and encourage the true Church
of Jesus Christ.
Scriptures quoted in this message are from the New American Standard Bible.
Issues of the Heart
I have some concerns, OK? Can I just share them with you? Do you want to
know what's in my heart, what bubbles up inside of me? Now, I preach two
times a week, every week, at Grace Church, I have for twenty years, I have
preached about 1500 sermons. So I go from subject to subject to subject
pretty fast. But some things just never seem to be able to release their grip
on me. Do you have things like that?
They are the passions of your life. And I want you to know what they are.
The first thing that I want you to understand is that I am deeply concerned,
that the Church of Jesus Christ, really begin to live by This Book [Bible].
My preaching is not an exercise in oratory. My preaching is not an exercise
in clever homiletics. It is not even duty, it is a passion.
It says in Psalm 138:2 that, "God has exalted His Word above His Name." Can
you imagine that? This is a sacred trust. And I am deeply concerned that the
Church plays "fast and loose" with the Word of God. That men don't accurately
teach and preach it; and don't study it with commitment; that churches don't
apply it and live it out.
Everybody asks me about the Baker PTL scandal, what I thought of it, and my
response is this: The major scandal was not what they did with their bodies,
although that was wicked sin; the major scandal was not what they did with
money taken from God's people, under false pretenses, although that was wicked
sin. The major scandal of the PTL was the development of a system of
Theology, out of the Bible, that lets you live like that. That's the scandal.
I listened to a talk show on the radio one day, and a lady called up and said,
"I want to know how to tell a good church, what I look for in a church." And
the host of the program said, "What you look for in a church is fellowship,
sharing and caring." And I said, "That's the wrong answer." You can find
that in a lot of places. You can find that in a bar; find that in a Service
Club, the Moose Lodge, or the Royal Order of the Goats, or whatever else you
want to join.
Fellowship, sharing, and caring? Hey, there is only one question to ask about
a church, "How do they handle "The Book?" I have fear about that. Will you
open your Bible with me to Psalm 19? And I just want to touch lightly on
this. Some of you have heard the series I did on the "Sufficiency of
Scripture." But I just want to touch this lightly.
Psalm 19:7, "The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The
testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the
Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is clear,
enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. The
ordinances are true and righteous altogether."
Those three verse provide for us the greatest comprehensive statement on the
sufficiency of Scripture, anywhere in the Bible. Six titles for Scriptures;
It is the Law of the Lord; the Testimony of the Lord; the Statutes of the
Lord; the Commandment of the Lord; the Fear of the Lord; and the Ordinances of
the Lord. It is all those things.
It has six characteristics; it is sure; it is right; it is clear or pure; it
is eternal, enduring forever; it is clean; and it is true. Did you get that?
The Bible is perfect, sure, right, clear, clean, and true. And what does it
do? Converts the soul; makes wise the simple; rejoices the heart; enlighten
the eyes; endures forever; and produces comprehensive righteousness. What
else could you ask for?
And yet I look at the Church today, and I see the Church giving into
entertainment. Why? I read an interview by a well known Christian Rock
Singer, who said, "The reason that she sings the way she does, is to reach the
lost. She feels that she has to be "sexy" in a godly way!" What is that?
What do you mean by that? Do we believe that we have to hide the Gospel? Are
we creating synthetic seed to replace the good seed?
Do we have to be clever, and manipulative, and creative? We can't just preach
the truth? Listen, I believe that we have to go back to the Word of God. I
am concerned deeply that the medium is becoming the message in the Church, and
that there is no message anymore.
There is a new book out, fascinating book, comparing modern well known
preachers, with the great preachers of the American Awakening, George
Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards. The difference is shocking. When Whitfield
and Edwards preached, they preached theology, it was profound, it was deep, it
was Biblical. And the message was the issue. And the man was measured on the
basis of how he squared with the Word of God.
Today the medium of communication has substituted for the message. And nobody
seems to care what the message was. All they care about is did we enjoy him.
Frightening! I believe there is a famine of the Word of God. I don't think
people are going to deny the Word of God, they just ignore it. Or they don't
think it is sufficient. They think it is the Bible plus something;
Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy, or whatever.
But I believe that it [Bible] is sufficient and I am deeply distressed that I
see in the Church, a pervasive mentality that we have to manipulate people to
believe. We have to entertain people to get them in. And yet Paul said, "I
am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto
salvation." Is it not? "To those who believe, Jew first, and also the
I am greatly concerned, that the Church doesn't believe that it [Bible] is
perfect and able to transform the whole person. I am convinced that the
Church doesn't believe that it [Bible] is sure, trustworthy, and able to make
a simple person eminently wise. I am not sure that the Church believes that.
I am not sure the Church believes that it [Bible] lays down the right path and
brings joy to the heart. I am not sure that the Church believes, that if you
really want to see things clearly, you need to see them through the pages of
the Scriptures. I hear so many preachers who are doing everything but
teaching the Word of God with depth. That's a passion for me. I believe the
Word of God is sufficient for every Spiritual need.
I want to turn to another passage, I could say much more about that, that's
what your pastor says just after he has run out of material. I could go on
and on brethren, but ah....... The reason I know that is because I am one.
Isaiah 6, is the second issue that I want to address just briefly with you.
And I am not going to preach a sermon tonight. If you need to get a sermon
from me, buy a tape. I just want to share my heart tonight.
Verse 1, "In the year that King Uzziah died." You say, "Why is that there?"
"Is that important?" It is if your name is Uzziah. But you have to
understand that Uzziah had been king for fifty-two years. And the people of
Israel had been sliding down the pit of sin. But as long as Uzziah was on the
throne they felt secure, because he was a very good king. And he was very
effective in strengthening the land economically, militarily, socially, and
all of that, he brought peace .
So they had this guy for fifty-two years, they were feeling really secure.
Can you imagine having the same president for fifty-two years, everything
going well? And they just felt very good about everything, and then Uzziah
died. And it sort of symbolized God taking His hand off. And when Uzziah
died, Isaiah the prophet, went to the temple to see God. He wanted to "check
in" and find out what was "going on," because Uzziah was killed by God. God
killed him. You know why? Because he intruded on the office of the priest.
He got to feeling so good about himself, he tried to play the role of the
priest, and that was sacred, and God killed him.
And so Isaiah steps into the temple and he wants to see God. And he says, "I
saw the Lord, I saw the Lord." I don't want to take time to describe the
whole vision, but he saw the Lord. And the thing that he saw most about the
Lord is in verse 3, the angels began to cry back and forth about the character
of the Lord, and three times it says God is what? Holy.
He saw the Holy God in a vision, and the post of the door moved at the voice
of him who cried and the house was filled with smoke. And then, "Said I."
Now what do you say when you see God? "Woe is me!" Do you know what woe
means? Damn me, curse me, assign me to condemnation, send me to Hell, judge
me. I am wretched, I am wicked, I am vile.
You say, "Well, why do you say that Isaiah? You got a bad self image. You
need a Christian Counselor. You got to feel good about yourself. You can't
go around saying 'Woe is me, I am undone.'" Undone means disintegrating,
crumbling, "going to pieces," falling apart. He says, "I am a man of unclean
lips, I have a dirty mouth." You say, "Isaiah, you are a prophet, you have
the best mouth in the land, when you open your mouth, God talks!" "What are
"No, I have unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people with unclean
lips. And why do I feel that way, because my eyes have seen what? The King."
Do you want to know something? I am greatly concerned that the Church does
not understand the Holiness of God. I am convinced that the Church plays
games with a Holy God, and they don't know what they are doing. And this is
If Jimmy Swaggert really understood what the Bible says about how Holy God is,
he wouldn't have lived the lifestyle he has been living. You can't live like
that, if you understand how holy God is, if you have the fear of God. And if
you don't have the fear of God about your sin, then you don't understand how
holy He is, and how He feels about sin.
There is a man out in California, who says he went to Heaven and saw God. And
he gets on TV and says, "I went to Heaven and I saw God." The first time I
saw him [the man] my ears went up. It was on a Christian TV. He says, "I saw
God! And I went up and the Lord took me to Heaven and oh, we had a wonderful
time, and I toured the place and I saw my mansion." He said, "I saw my
mansion." I don't want to blow your dreams, but there are no mansions. In
John 14, "In my Father's house are many rooms," it says. You are not living
eighteen blocks down, and four to the right, you are living "in" the Father's
house! "So am I."
But he did not even know how to interpret the Bible. So whatever heaven he
went to, it wasn't the one in the Bible. But any way he said, "We toured, and
I saw my mansion, and I saw all the mansions etc.," He's a medical doctor, so
that gives him creditability with people, and he travels around, and wrote a
book about it. And then he says, "Whenever I want to renew my visit to
Heaven, I go to my closet and take out the tie I wore the day I went, it still
has the smell of Heaven!"
And then recently, he said he went back again, and I guess the circuit was
running a little dry, so he needed another trip to "stir up" the troops. So
he went back to Heaven, and he "got on" again recently and said, "I have been
to Heaven and I have a wonderful announcement to make, and this is exactly
what he said, "There are no bathrooms in Heaven." My blood began to boil at
the time, such sacrilege, such mockery. Take your show on the road, write a
book, be a television celebrity, but let me tell you something, sir, "If you
ever saw Holy God, you would be on the ground, with your face down crying for
the mercy of God. That's where you'd be, you wouldn't be on TV as some
celebrity. As a sinner in the presence of a Holy God, as soon as you see Holy
God, you would know that he sees your sin, and you are undone."
Remember the disciples, trying to cross the Sea of Galilee, and a storm came
up, and they were in a boat with Jesus? And the storm started "whipping up"
and the boat is "bouncing around," and the thing is starting to fill up with
water, and what is Jesus doing? Sleeping! I love that. Nobody else trusted
God, He did. And the disciples woke Him up, saying, "Lord, don't you care
that we perish?" And the Bible says, "They were afraid." And the Lord looked
out at the sea churning, and He said, "Shhhh!" And the wind stopped, and the
ripples didn't even go to the shore, they just flattened out. And the Bible
says, "The disciples were exceedingly afraid!" Do you know what is worse
having a storm outside of your boat? Having the God of creation in your boat!
In Luke 5, Peter is trying to catch fish, which he never could do, because
after he was called to the ministry the Lord rerouted all the fish away from
his boat. And he is trying to catch fish, and he can't catch any, and the
Lord calls to him, and the Lord says, "Try the right side of the boat."
I don't know about you, but if I didn't know who that was, it would irritate
me a "little bit" after fishing all night, because that sounds like a pretty
silly thing to do. But apparently the voice of the Lord had enough authority,
and they pulled so many fish they couldn't get them. Do you remember Peter's
response? "Wow, what a miracle, wait until I tell everybody." No! What did
he say? "Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man. As soon as he
realized that he was in the presence of God, he could only see himself as an
I had a pastor who is the pastor of a pretty "far out" Charismatic church, and
we were having lunch one day and he said, "I want to tell you something, I
don't know how you will deal with this," he said, "But sometimes when I'm
shaving in the morning, Jesus comes in the bathroom, puts His arms around me
and talks to me!" I said, "You mean Jesus, the real Jesus appears in a way
that you can see Him?" "Yes," he said, "Do you believe that?" I said, "No."
"No, I don't believe that, but what distresses me is I believe, you believe
that. I just have one question, do you keep shaving? Because, if you keep
shaving, my friend, it wasn't Jesus."
When a woman reach out and touched the hem of His garment, and he pulled her
out of the crowd, she was terrified. You would be "on your face." Do we
understand the holiness of God? I understand His grace, I understand His
love, I understand His forgiveness, we are good at that. Do we understand how
holy He really is?
Why is it important? Listen to Romans 10:3, "Israel," get this one, "being
ignorant of God's righteousness, went about to establish their own
righteousness. Do you know what their problem was? They thought God was less
righteous than He was. They thought they were more righteous then they were
and everything was fine. Many people in the Church live like that. They
don't think God is that upset about their sin, so they don't get that upset
about their sin, and we have an unholy Church, and we have unholy leadership.
I tell you something, if the leaders don't get serious about the holiness of
God, there is not going to be much hope for the Church. Leaders keep falling,
"right and left," into all kinds of immorality. People ask me everywhere I
go, "What do you think of that?" "I'll be real honest with you people, I
think you have one shot at a life of integrity, and when you have "blown it"
you are done. I believe that. 1st Corinthians 9:27 says, "Paul's greatest
fear was that in preaching to others, he would become disqualified."
I believe you can be disqualified. How? 1st Timothy 3 says, "You have to be
blameless and above reproach." And if you are not blameless and above
reproach, then you are not qualified. By the grace of God, God expects people
to set the standard. You say, "Well, how fast should a leader be restored?"
It all depends on what leadership is, if leadership is gathering the troops
and raising money, speaking to the people, being an interesting guy, then "get
But if leadership is modeling godliness, then maybe he never comes back,
because the model is shattered. My fear is that what the Church has done is
this, since we can't find enough godly leaders to meet the standard, we lower
the standard. The holiness of God, the holiness of God, our hearts must be
committed to that.
Well, there are many other things I could say, Psalm 101 says, "He who is,"
get this, "upright in heart, shall minister to me." Isn't that good? "He who
is upright in heart shall minister to me." I am concerned about who is going
to have the right to minister. I will be honest with you, I am concerned
about restoring people to ministry, who have been disqualified. Bring them
back as fast as you can.
I am concerned about that, do you know what is going to happen? That's going
to be the new trend, "Pastors into sin, restored back into the ministry." And
do you know what they are going to be saying, "We understand your sins and
your problems better than anybody else, we have been there!" And we are going
to have this new restored clergy, and the rest of God's faithful servants, who
have been obedient to Christ, and walked in faithfulness, are going to wind up
as second class citizens who don't really understand people. Frightening.
The standard gets lower and lower.
I am concerned also about a lethargy in the Church. A lack of spiritual
commitment, of real spiritual commitment. I see a lot of Christians who just
sort of "flake," you know? They are not involved. It's heart breaking.
Three weeks ago, four weeks ago, I guess, I talked with a pastor from Russia.
He came to visit Grace Church. He didn't speak any English. He had heard
about our church, I guess, when he was in his country. He wanted to see our
church on his visit to America so he came to our church. He spoke no English,
only Russian. He had a lady with him who spoke Russian and Spanish, and she
had a friend who spoke Spanish and English. We had a very interesting
From Russian to Spanish, from Spanish to English, from English to me, and then
back through the same circle. He said to me, first of all he wanted to know
if we had any material in Russian? And I told him we had the book, "The
Charismatics," it just had been translated and was being distributed, and I
gave him a copy of that. then he said, "I just don't understand how you can
minister in America, I don't understand it, with a low level of commitment."
He said, "Do you know that no one in Russia, would ever, ever, pretend to be a
Christian. Do you understand that? You don't want to pretend to be a
Christian. They put Christians in jail. Unless you are one, you are not
going to fake it." And he went on to say that every time they opened the Word
of God, everyone comes to feed on the Word. And here we are, "Fat and Sassy,"
in America, aren't we? It's a heart rending thing. I am concerned about
One other thing, I am concerned about the gospel we preach. I am concerned
about the gospel we preach, somebody said, a Calvinist said, "Sometimes we
don't present the gospel well enough for the non-elect to reject it. Kind of
an interesting statement isn't it? I didn't say that, someone else said that.
There is a very great amount of confusion today about the gospel. Take it
from me folks, I am in the middle of a battle on this right now. The little
tape series we did on examine yourselves, the new book, "The Gospel According
to Jesus," which I have been working on, really for ten years, just came out
this week. The most significant book I ever written in my life. The gospel
is under attack.
There are people going across this country, widespread, in fundamentalist, and
evangelical circles, saying, "All you have to do to be a Christian, is to
believe the facts of the gospel in one moment of time, and if you never
believe it again, and you become an agnostic, and apostate, or an atheist, you
are still saved. You don't ever have to bear any fruit, you life doesn't have
to change, it has nothing to do with salvation.
Do you know what that kind of gospel does? That puts people on the broad road
who finally wind up saying, "Lord, Lord," and they hear, "Depart from me, I
never knew you." The most frightening thing in the world to me, would be the
reality of Matthew, Chapter 7, and verses 20 and following, to think you are
going to Heaven, and you wind up in Hell. Because, someone gave the gospel,
that wasn't the true gospel.
I have just written this book to counter the argument that they say you should
never ever call on anyone to repent from their sin. You should never call on
anyone to submit to Jesus Christ as Lord. You should never say to anyone,
"Follow Jesus Christ in obedience." Salvation is just believing and that's
it. Later on, they can get serious about "Making Jesus Lord." Wait a minute,
you don't make Jesus Lord, Jesus is Lord! You don't say, "Look, I'll let you
in my life, but you can't be Lord. You have got to be who I am telling you to
I am convinced that the Church of Jesus Christ, visible, is filled with
unconverted people. Unconverted people! And we accept some, "Raised Hand,"
"Signed Card," "Walk the Aisle," some moment of whatever, emotion, to be true
salvation. And we say, "Well, I know they divorced their wife, and I know
they are adulterous, and I know they drink a lot, and I know they don't come
to church, but I remember the day they, "Walked the Aisle." Well, "What in
the world" does that mean? What does that mean?
Jesus preached repentance, Jesus preached submission to Him. One last
Scripture, in Matthew 19, don't turn to it, I'll just mention it, the rich
young ruler said, "What must I do to have eternal life?" And Jesus said,
"Sell all you have," and do what? "Give it to the poor." Jesus said, "Come
Here's a guy who comes to Jesus and says, "What do I do to get eternal life?"
Jesus said, "Give your money away." Is that the right answer? You put that
on your quiz at Bible College and you will flunk! What do you mean, "Give
your money away," is that salvation by philanthropy? And if you get saved by
giving your money away to a poor guy, then he's lost, because he's got it!
You can stand there and hand it back and forth and hope that you don't have it
at the Second Coming. "Sort of like" musical chairs.
What is Jesus saying? The young man said, "I want eternal life." Jesus said,
"Yeah, that's fine, but we are going to deal with something else first. Are
you willing to follow me?" He could of asked him anything. This was an
arbitrary command, "Sell all, give to the poor." Because He knew that money
was the god of this man's life. And he said, "Let's deal with the issue, I
know that you want eternal life, but are you willing to give up everything, if
I ask you?" And he went away. Salvation is an exchange of all that I am for
all that He is. It's saying, "I won't follow me, I'll follow you."
I wish that Evangelists would stop saying, "Make a decision for Christ," and
call on people to follow Jesus Christ. It is a life commitment. The man went
away, he didn't want to follow Jesus Christ, he wanted to rule his own life.
He didn't even want to admit his sin. Jesus said, "Keep the commandments,"
and he said, "I've kept them all!" He wouldn't acknowledge his sin and he
wouldn't submit to the authority of Christ. And Jesus said, "He went away."
Two things basic to salvation, turning from sin and following Christ. That's
true salvation. And I am so burdened, because I know there are churches were
people are sitting deceived, who think they are saved. Look at your life.
Look at your life. Do you follow Christ? Let me put it simpler, do you want
to follow Christ? Do you desire to follow Christ? And when you don't, are
you saddened by that? Are you grieved by your sin? That's the mark of
It's not that following Christ is the perfection of your life, but it is at
least the direction. The truly saved, very simple, "Love Christ and hate
sin." Love Christ, hate sin. It doesn't say, "They don't sin," it says,
"When they do sin, they hate it." Paul says in Romans 7, "The things that I
don't want to do, I do. The things I want to do, I don't do. Oh, wretched
Well, those are the burdens of my heart, and I just wanted to share them with
you. We need your prayers.
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